National Hockey League
Panthers-Canadiens Preview
National Hockey League

Panthers-Canadiens Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 7:39 p.m. ET

The last time the Florida Panthers swept a season series from the Montreal Canadiens, they went on to capture their lone division title.

There's a chance the Atlantic Division leaders can accomplish both feats when the teams face off Tuesday night.

In the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season, Florida (45-25-9) reduced its magic number to two to claim the Atlantic with Monday's 4-3 victory at Toronto. The Panthers would clinch with a win in Montreal and a Tampa Bay loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

''We're trying to get as many points and try and play as well as we can going in and see what happens,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. ''It's good to get the home-ice clinched (Monday) and the next goal is to try and get first in the division.''


Florida had moved closer to winning the division with Saturday's furious comeback against the Canadiens, in which it scored four unanswered goals to earn a 4-3 win. Aleksander Barkov capped the rally and a career-high four-point night on his second goal of the game with 28.1 seconds left.

Barkov scored again on Monday to help extend the Panthers' winning streak to three games and set a team season record with 99 points. The 20-year-old emerging star has at least one goal in each of those victories and 10 points over a six-game run.

His linemates are getting it done as well. Jonathan Huberdeau had scored in five straight prior to notching an assist against Toronto, while the ageless Jaromir Jagr has two goals and five assists over Florida's 5-1-0 stretch.

The trio accounted for all four scores in Saturday's comeback.

''They're phenomenal,'' Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said of Florida's top line. ''They've got size and they're strong on the puck. They dominate the game. It's pretty simple. On that line with Barkov, you need to go on the ice and have full energy. If you don't have that full energy, they're going to beat you.''

Barkov and Huberdeau have caused problems for Montreal throughout their brief careers. The former has five goals and three assists in Florida's three 2015-16 wins against the Canadiens and eight goals over the teams' past six meetings, while the Quebec native Huberdeau owns an eight-game point streak in the series.

Montreal (36-37-6) had won two straight prior to Saturday's matchup, scoring twice in the third period to defeat Detroit 4-3 last Tuesday and aiding the Panthers' cause with Thursday's 3-0 victory at Tampa Bay behind Mike Condon's 26 saves.

One bright spot in Saturday's collapse was the return of Brendan Gallagher, who scored the contest's initial goal in his first game since sustaining a lower-body injury on March 5.

The Canadiens still won't have P.K. Subban back from a neck injury suffered against Buffalo on March 10. However, John Scott will make his team debut after the unlikely All-Star was recalled from the minors on Sunday.

Scott, voted an All-Star starter in a controversial fan campaign while then with Arizona, had been playing for St. John's of the American Hockey League since being acquired from the Coyotes on Jan. 15.

"It's kind of cool how everything's come full-circle," he told the Canadiens' official website. "It's good to be up here and kind of experience what it's like to be a Canadien. They're kind of doing me a favor. It's a one-game thing, unless I go out and score a hat trick."


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